Photoessay: A Feast of the Sacrifice

*Warning* Several images in this set may be difficult viewing for some. DO NOT click through if you are unsure whether graphic images of animal sacrifice will disturb you.

Eid al-Adha (Arabic: عيد الأضحى‎ ‘Īd al-’Aḍḥá, IPA: [ʕiːd al ʔadˁˈħaː], “festival of sacrifice”), also called Feast of the Sacrifice, the Major Festival, the Greater Eid and Bakrid, is an important 4-day religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to honour the willingness of the prophet ʾIbrāhīm (Abraham) to sacrifice his young first-born son Ismā’īl (Ishmael)a as an act of submission to God’s command and his son’s acceptance to being sacrificed, before God intervened to provide Abraham with a ram to sacrifice instead. – via Wikipedia.

Part of the tradition is the practice of sacrifice of a farm animal; in Malaysia, this is generally a cow but it isn’t uncommon for lambs or goats to be sacrificed instead. The community comes together in a singular purpose and spirit, usually around the local mosque or surau. Tents are raised, tables are filled with drinks and food, the animals are tied to stakes in the ground, or to trees, evenly spaced to give sufficient room to position them for the final cut. The men of the community take charge, the women and children a few steps behind, observing, and bearing witness.

Like clockwork, each animal is given its turn. The air fills with salutations to Allah. Sweat drips from the effort, blades become wet and red. A deep smell of feces and blood permeates. The animals submit almost silently, hardly protesting their fate. The sun rises ever higher, and as it warms, skin and meat are carved off the bone, and apportioned expertly into carefully weighed packets for distribution. The task progresses so quickly, there is a low humm in the air. Almost as soon as it starts, its over. All that remains are dark stains on the earth, even the bones are sawn into chunks and taken away.

All photographs were taken with an Olympus OM-D EM-5, with a combination of Olympus 45mm f1.8 and Panasonic Lumix 14mm f2.5 lenses.

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